Courts in Louisiana no longer automatically presume that a mother should have custody over the couple's children after divorce or the end of their relationship. Judges must consider several matters while deciding how to award child custody.
Legal custody rights allow a parent to make decisions over the child's education, moral upbringing and health care. Custody is usually shared between both parents. However, courts must determine what constitutes the bests interest of the child when reaching this decision. This includes consideration of the child's age and gender, the parents' ability to provide a good and loving environment, a parent's ability to meet the child's essential needs, existing emotional ties between the parents and the child, whether custody will affect the child's feelings of home and security, if the child is old enough to make decisions and both parents' age, character and mental and physical health. Child abuse or neglect also play an important role.
The divorce decree establishes visitation rights for parents even if they do not have custody. However, this is not immediately granted, and courts must consider numerous factors. If there is evidence of child abuse or domestic violence, courts will limit or deny visitation rights. A mental evaluation may be ordered.
These rights include visitation during fixed hours, planning and preparing for activities during visitation, preventing a parent from threatening or depriving visitation rights and seeking a modification of the decree if a parent changes visitation rights without approval. A parent is usually entitled to seek an injunction preventing the other parent from taking the child to another state or distance or to call police if visitation rights were violated.